The continuing crisis in Japan has forced all automakers to be more active than ever with their supply chains.
One unavailable component from a subsupplier can stop production of a vehicle. And between the devastation of the earthquake and tsunami and the immediate threat from the crippled nuclear power plant, lots of parts are not being made.
In their relationships with one another during a crisis, companies show what they are made of.
Suppliers and automakers are in the same life raft. How will they best make it to safety?
Some automakers are working closely with suppliers to craft collaborative solutions, solving parts and production problems as a means to their joint survival. Other automakers are leaning on suppliers as though it were business as usual.
In this situation, culture matters. An automaker that treats suppliers as serfs rather than partners may or may not get the parts it needs to keep assembling cars and trucks.
If automakers handle their suppliers with an iron fist and don't take into account the natural catastrophe that has affected some of those suppliers, they will get one result. If they work collaboratively with suppliers to achieve flexible solutions, they will get a decidedly different outcome -- one that will last long after Japan has recovered.
In the short term, the choice is collaboration or confrontation.
In a crisis, companies and people show us who they are.